Friday, June 15, 2012

Catholics Are Strange

It struck me today, as it often does, how strange we Catholics are. We honor the bones and incorrupt bodies of long-dead saints; we receive the Body and Blood of God at Mass; we have weird devotions to several of that God's physical qualities, including the shoulder wound of Christ, his five wounds, and the Sacred Heart, which is the solemnity we celebrate today. Tomorrow we honor Mary's Immaculate Heart. We Catholics simply refuse to accept the tendency to dichotomize body and soul, as their unity is the very nature of the sacramentality that saturates our world.

Of course, the origin of all this strangeness is not ourselves. This is the way God has revealed Himself. How odd that the Creator would find it important to reveal something as seemingly insignificant as the sacred nature of His heart. That God should reveal Himself in such a way is strange - and wonderful in its strangeness. That the physical heart of Christ can be a means of drawing us closer to Him is remarkable and mysterious.

Someday we hope to honor this strange devotion by enthroning the Sacred Heart in our home. This is a beautiful custom that is especially appropriate for Catholic families. You can find more information at this website.

As the wonderful folks over at New Liturgical Movement note, the tradition of honoring the Sacred Heart and Immaculate Heart is an ancient one. God has always revealed Himself as having a heart, even before the coming of Christ. On these great feasts, we are thankful for our religion and all its strangeness, and pray that our own hearts may "burn within us."


  1. Another spot on post. I especially like how you comment on the Origin of the strangeness. I've often wondered whether the evident strangeness is in large part due to the fact that there is such a large gulf between us finite creatures and our infinite Creator. Would you say that the strangeness that is present in our religion seems far too spectacular to be a human innovation, and as such points to the divine origin of our religion?

  2. Thanks for your comment Dunadan. I think there is something to be said for what you seem to be suggesting. It makes sense to say "Nothing so strange as Catholicism could ever be made up by our mere mortal finite minds...its just too bizarre. It must be of Divine origin."

    On the other hand, I would be a bit leery about making a comparison analysis with other religions to test strangeness. I was just reading the Norse mythological creation story to my daughter last night. We were both fascinated to read how the primordial cow licked the gods into existence because she was so desperate to keep her udders full and feed the ice giants and trolls. Similarly, I always found it immensely strange that the Bhagavad Gita, a primary text of a no-injury religion, takes place in a moment outside of time when Lord Krishna convinces a doubting general, who is agonizing over the lives that will be lost, to engage in bloody battle. Clearly there is a never ending supply of such examples. And then there is the strangeness of the natural world...

    I would suggest that Reality is strange to us because we live in a society that is fundamentally removed from Truth. I would argue that other religions and myths radiate out from this same truth, of which Catholicism is the luminous crown. This is why when we hear of Odin hanging from the Tree of Life for three days so as to win the magical runes for mankind or we read of Lord Krishna being absolutely present and conjugal to every single person in paradise, we are witnessing the gleam of Catholicism. As Tolkien says, Catholicism is the True Myth which informs and saturates all others.

    Rather than dismissing the strange and arcane we should be suspicious of our own culture's common trends, patterns and reflexes. If only our society were truly Pagan, we would be so much closer to being Catholic!